Choosing the right sunscreen for you shouldn’t be rocket science. But with a dizzying array of sunscreen options available, we understand how overwhelming this process can be. As in choosing any skin care product, understanding sunscreen ingredients should be the first step; the second is knowing exactly what your skin needs. As finding the right sunscreen is never a one-size-fits-all affair, we sought the help of board-certified dermatologist and skin-cancer surgeon Michael Shapiro to help you decide which sunscreen works best for which skin type, skin concern, skin color and lifestyle.
FOR NORMAL SKIN
If your skin is neither too oily nor too dry, a lotion- or cream-based sunscreen will provide the right amount of hydration that your skin requires without making it look too oily. Go for at least SPF 30 for everyday use, higher for prolonged sun exposure.
FOR DRY SKIN
Choose a lotion or cream with added hydrating/moisturizing ingredients, such as glycerin, lanolin, oils, silicones (like dimethicone) and aloe. Avoid sprays and gels laden with alcohol because alcohol has drying effects after repeated use.
FOR OILY SKIN
Look for lightweight sunscreens (sheer or fluid “gel” lotions) that dry down to
atte finish. Well-formulated, water-based sunscreens with absorbent ingredients like silica or isododecane are prime candidates.
FOR COMBINATION SKIN
Follow the same rules as those with sensitive skin.
FOR SENSITIVE, EASILY IRRITATED SKIN
Look for something hypoallergenic and fragrance-free (a mineral formula). Go for titanium dioxide or zinc oxide instead of chemicals like para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), dioxybenzone, oxybenzone or sulisobenzone. If you have skin irritation or allergies, avoid sunscreens with alcohol, fragrances or preservatives.
FOR ACNE-PRONE SKIN
Look for gel formulas, which usually contain alcohol, and avoid greasy sunscreens (often marketed as “creams”), since they may exacerbate breakouts. People on topical acne medications, which tend to be drying, may find gels too irritating and may benefit from a light lotion or cream base. You can also try using a mineral sunscreen—with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as the active ingredient—because this sit on top of the skin rather than being absorbed, so your skin is less likely to react. Also make sure that the label says “oil-free” and “non-comedogenic.”
FOR AGING SKIN
Look for a two-in-one formula that blocks the sun’s harmful rays as well as repairs existing damage with a powerful combination of antioxidants and peptides.
FOR BABIES AND CHILDREN
Chemicals can easily irritate children’s sensitive skin, so it is recommended to use physical sunscreens. Physical sunscreens zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are better tolerated by people with sensitive skin and can usually be found in sunscreens for babies and children.
FOR LIGHTER SKIN TONE
If you have very fair skin, a family history of skin cancer or medical conditions that increase sensitivity to sunlight, always use SPF 30 or higher.
FOR DARKER SKIN TONE
While those with darker complexions may have a naturally higher SPF protection in their skin, it is still essential to wear proper sunscreen (broad-spectrum, with an SPF of 30 or higher) to prevent damage. Some sunscreens tend to give dark skin a grey appearance after application, but newer liquid formulas can provide darker women with protection without changing the way the skin looks. New clear zinc formulas are also great to try since they are harder to see on the skin after application.
FOR TRAVELERS & BUSY PROFESSIONALS
Look for a light, non-greasy sunscreen that can be applied under makeup. Some companies have created tinted BB creams that even out skin tone and hydrate skin while also providing UV protection.
FOR ATHLETES & ADVENTURE-SEEKERS
If you are going to be in the water or sweating, it is worth getting a sunscreen resistant to water and sweat. The FDA defines “water resistant” sunscreen as being effective after 40 minutes in the water. “Very water resistant” means it holds up after 80 minutes of swimming. These sunscreens aren’t waterproof, so you still need to reapply regularly.
READERS – Did we miss anything? How do YOU choose your sunscreen? Share your thoughts with us on the comment section below.